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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Takayama Hikokuro

高山彦九郎

On Sanjo Bridge in Kyoto there is a large statue of a grim-faced, bearded man, sword in hand, kneeling in reverance towards the Imperial Palace to the north-west.

That man is Takayama Hikokuro (1747-1793), aka Takayama Masayuke, an eccentric, lower-class samurai originally from Ota in Gunma Prefecture.

Takayama Masayuke

Takayama came to Kyoto as a young man to study and was shocked by the way the Imperial family had lost its prestige and wealth under the dominance of the ruling Tokugawa bakufu (military government), who he felt had unjustly usurped the rightful powers of the divine emperor.

Takayama wandered the country, keeping a travel journal, and railed against the Tokugawa regime, demanding that power be restored to the Emperor. In this, he is a forerunner of the men who later successfully rose against the bakufu in the mid-19th century.

Pursued by agents of the Tokugawa, Takayama committed seppuku (suicide by sword) in Kurume, in what is now present-day Fukuoka Prefecture, as an act of defiance and a rallying-call to the nation.

The statue on Sanjo Bridge was raised after the restoration of imperial rule from 1868.

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